Labor’s solar-wind revolution underway

Despite Australia’s recalcitrant record in joining the world towards a clean and sustainable energy, some positive developments are taking place from within the Opposition who are leading the way. Re-posting:

Australia’s opposition block has come up with a defiant act against Tony Abbott’s government on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) by committing to an ambitious target of 50 percent by 2030. In Victoria alone, a solar and wind farms revolution will soon get underway. By 2020, RET will be no less than 20 percent.

Premier Daniel Andrews from the Labor Party unveiled their Renewable Energy Roadmap geared towards rebuilding Victoria’s reputation as the nation’s leader for renewable energy.

Joined by Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio at Keppel Prince in Portland,  Andrews announced the government’s plan to attract Victoria’s share of renewable energy investment and jobs in Australia by 2020.

The Labor government also launched an initiative to source renewable energy certificates from new projects in Victoria, bringing forward around $200 million of new investment in renewables. Andrews sees more wind and solar farms will rise in the coming few years to propel investments and to create jobs in the countryside.

The roadmap outlines a set of initiatives aimed at accelerating the development of renewable energy projects in Victoria. It was developed in partnership with key energy sector stakeholders, including industry, consumer groups and environment groups.

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

Along with the 20 percent renewable targets by 2020, the roadmap identifies other priority areas, including the use of government electricity purchasing power to support the creation of hundreds of renewable energy jobs. It also seeks to end unfair discrimination and improving access to the grid for solar customers. A $20 million New Energy Jobs Fund will also be set aside to support clean energy jobs. The Andrews government highlighted the need for ambition to attract investment and create jobs while tackling climate change.

The plan is coming together. Labor in the Australian Capital Territory has a renewable energy target of 90 per cent by 2020; South Australia 50 per cent by 2025; and Queensland, 50 percent by 2030.

Federally, the Labor opposition has committed to a national goal of 50 per cent by 2030. The target was announced during the party’s conference in July this year.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) renewable energy spokesperson Leigh Ewbank said, “A Victorian target that matches the ambition of the ACT or South Australia would be welcomed by the community. And it would ensure Victoria is not out-competed by other states.”

More wind farms to rise in Victoria. Pic: AP.

More wind farms to rise in Victoria. Pic: AP.

FoE sees a renewable energy revolution underway. “Building the shovel-ready wind farms alone would put us at around 26 percent renewable. And that’s not accounting for the rooftop solar revolution that’s underway.”

FoE says the government’s renewables roadmap sketches out a comprehensive plan to grow renewables. The group is awaiting further details about the policy drivers it will use to meet state renewable energy targets.

These details will be finalised in a RET Action Plan to be released later this year.

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Australian Greens face tough times: Abbott

While Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown is gone, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott warned the Greens- Labor Coalition would face “turbulent times” saying Brown acted more like a prime minister.

The Daily Telegraph said Brown quitted before the storm on carbon tax which will take effect in July this year. The paper said this is where the broader public may react badly to Brown’s departure, and where Gillard will become vulnerable.

Many will simply view this as Brown, a figure a majority of people believe is the quasi-deputy leader in a Labor-Greens alliance, leaving the sinking ship before it runs aground. Tony Abbott will make easy work of a perception that the man responsible for forcing the government to introduce the carbon tax doesn’t even want to stick around to see it start.

Resigned Bob Brown walks away with the party’s new leader, Christine Milne (Photo: Andrew Meares)

PM Julia Gillard accepted Brown’s resignation last week as Deputy Christine Milne took over the helm with Lower House MP Adam Bandt later voted in as her replacement. Brown will also quit as a Tasmanian Senator when his term expires in June. He will not seek for re-election.

Brown said he is happy to go after 16 years in public service taking active role at the forefront of Australia’s environmental campaigns. He turned his party an icon of “innovation.”

With Brown, the Greens became Australia’s third political party and used its heft to bargain with a minority Labor Government and gain the balance of power in the Senate, The Punch commented. The Greens have also been instrumental in the implementation of a carbon tax. Brown leaves the Greens in historically high numbers in the parliament, with a total if 10 members in the House of Representatives and Senate. Brown said:

“I am 67. I am aware that one should always make room for renewal in politics. A democracy is the healthier for the turnover of the depth of talent there is in its community,” he told reporters at a press conference in Canberra.

He added he will leave public office to enjoy his private life, but he will remain Green as long as he lives. He said one of his upcoming plans is to visit Miranda Gibson who has been perching on a tree to keep vigil on Tasmania’s forests.

The tree observer, Miranda Gibson, has been holding vigil on a makeshift house perched on a tree. This photo is taken by Brown himself.

However, Brown could not elude critics on his “untimely” resignation amid crumbling pubic support for Australia’s green projects. Oppositions to the carbon tax claim Brown is playing safe before the storm. The carbon tax passed the Senate in November 2011 and will take effect in July this year. Prices of goods and services across the nation are predicted to spiral as a result.

As a warning for the Labor-Greens coalition, the Labor Party was already massacred in the recent Queensland state election. The new Australian Liberal Party’s State Government is now dumping green schemes initiated by the former Labor premiere.

In Canberra, federal government offices are cutting budgets that may result into mass layoffs reducing the number of employees and projects in areas related to environment.

National secretary Nadine Flood said that some work in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and industry assistance programs would ”simply not be done”, the Canberra Times reported.

The same paper added, “The Community and Public Sector Union, while unable to confirm the latest job cut figures, said reducing numbers to 470 would be a massive blow for staff and would seriously damage Australia’s ability to deal with the impacts of climate change.”

At the party’s Third Annual Green Oration delivered on March 23 this year, Brown addressed the “Earthians” to get involved in finding solutions to the shrinking resources of the planet while its citizenry is growing to an unparalleled proportion beyond what the planet can sustain.

He proposed that for the Earth to be able to survive in the next millennium, a “comprehensive Earth action, an all-of-the-Earth representative democracy is required. That is, a global parliament.” He added, “So democracy – ensuring that everyone is involved in deciding Earth’s future – is the key to success. “

The Punch’s editor-in-chief reacted to the speech as out-of-this-world political ramblings.

…the phrase “Fellow Earthians” was a deep ecologist ramble across a range of themes, including the possible existence of aliens, the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the fact that Bob saw a shooting star the other night and believed it was a portent heralding a new form of participatory democracy. It has been covered at length elsewhere and should you be up for a laugh, please read it in its entirety…

Australian Greens rally at the Parliament House in Canberra in 2008 (Photo: Australian Greens)

Greens Reactions

Green organizations commended Brown’s advocacy to environment, gay marriages, refugee and asylum seekers, and other issues related to social and economic equality.

SBS noted the Wilderness Society described “Brown as an inspiring leader for the Australian environment movement and a champion of wilderness protection during the past 30 years.”

Greenpeace also said Senator Brown would be remembered by future generations for his efforts to protect Australia’s natural heritage.

“He has been a steady voice of reason in a parliament dogged by vested interests and shortsightedness,” program director Ben Pearson said in a statement.

Gay advocates have called Bob Brown one of Australia’s great gay heroes.

While Milne and Brandt take the helm of the party, the Greens are also looking for possible candidate for the June election.

A potential candidate to replace Brown would be Peter Whish-Wilson, a Tamar Valley winemaker who grew up in Karratha who claimed to have worked for BHP Billiton. He said he has experience in small business, markets and global finance which will make him a different sort of Green.

“This is the biggest opportunity for us to create jobs growth and we have to incentivise companies to do the right thing. I don’t see Tasmania just through tourism: there have to be other directions and opportunities…“I am more for opportunity than opposition,” the Financial Review quoted Whish-Wilson as saying.

The Australian said Milne will seek to establish a new political support base among rural Australians and “progressive” businesses as part of an intensified campaign against the “vested interests” of the resource-based economy.

Senator Milne has also attacked the major political parties as captives of the resources sector, and savaged the “rapaciousness” of mining companies, vowing to dedicate her leadership to hastening a transition to a low-carbon economy.

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